Indian cities of Aurangabad and Osmanabad renamed

Changes were final act of Maharashtra state's Shiv Sena-led government before it was toppled by defections

Uddhav Thackeray, right, the former chief minister of Maharashtra state, hands his resignation letter to state Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari in Mumbai. AFP
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The Shiv Sena-led government in India’s Maharashtra state changed the names of two cities named after Muslim rulers in a late effort to boost support among Hindus before being forced to step down.

The government was toppled by a rebellion among party members, who accused it of failing to support Hindutva, a form of Hindu nationalism.

The state Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal to rename Aurangabad, a city founded by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, as Sambhajinagar.

The name comes from Sambhaji, the eldest son of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji, from whom Shiv Sena took its name. Sambhaji was killed by Aurangzeb in 1689.

The Cabinet also agreed to rename Osmanabad as Dharashiv.

The city was originally named after the last ruler of the former princely state of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan. Its new name is inspired by sixth-century caves near the city.

The decision to rename the cities, which are both politically significant for voter turnout, meets a long-standing demand by Hindu nationalists.

It came hours before Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray resigned as chief minister following a week of political drama.

His right-wing, Hindu ultranationalist party was formed in Maharashtra by his father, Bal Thackeray, in 1966.

The western state has been controlled by an alliance of Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party after Mr Thackeray cut ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019.

But last week, more than 40 Shiv Sena legislators rebelled against Mr Thackeray for forming a coalition with "secular" parties and accused him of abandoning the party's Hindutva agenda.

That left Mr Thackeray with about 15 supporters and he stepped down after the Supreme Court declined to stay a floor test to prove the majority of his government.

In a Facebook Live stream, Mr Thackeray said he had no regrets.

“Whatever I did, I did for the Marathi people and Hindutva,” he said.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 9:23 AM